Tuesday 7 July 2015, 8.04am HKT
03 July 2015, 8.50pm local time, 30°C (86°F), hot and musty
IF you want a ‘power’ name, you’ve come to the right place.
Names for persons, for firms, characters, project names — you name it — and many take to me as their first port of call for the longest time.
To wit, my invention “The Lipsync Lawyer” (among others) last April.
I’m flattered, but honestly too, I have to wonder about how some people dream up names, especially names for kids or for themselves.
A Hong Kong Chinese ex-classmate of mine has the Western name “Writing“ (real name: Wai-ting). What are you going to call the next generation? “Typing”? “Emailing”? “Texting”? “SKYPING”?!
(Mind you, that’s actually quite kewl — a whole lineage of ‘writing’ people.)
My family is good at names. We have a happy knack of coming up with good, solid names that go down well with any class of people.
Dad was pretty good at it. Granddad too. Mum was, well, okay on middle names. Predictably, Grandpa (the one on Mum’s side with the confused German education ) told anyone to (ahem) go f@#k themselves when asked to advise on an English name.
Helleow … I’m “Pretending to be Nice”
Not to sound too immodest, but nearly everyone inside and outside my family agrees I’m the best in the names department. Don’t mean to be, but there we have it.
Because of history, because of culture, because of forex manipulation and price gouging, 90% of Hong Kong Chinese people come with some kind of “English” name (which may not be ‘English’ in the strictest sense, but what the heck…).
I’ve been asked again for an English name for a kid.
So I’ll just leave this here for that person. Includes tidbits that come to mind as I write along.
Everything is in RANDOM ORDER. I want the person to actively choose without the artificial effects of alphabetical ordering. Chinese text for the benefit of that person concerned.
Or a little perspective to kick your teeth in … err, to start things off right
There’s an old saying:—
Afraid not of a bad life but to wear a bad name.
Mandarin: bù-pà shēng huài mìng, zuì-pà gǎi huài míng
Cantonese: but pah saang wai meng, jeui pah goi wai meng
“Bad” name as in “malfunctioned” — a name malfunction.
In naming matters, this is the engine driving Chinese mentality.
Nothing wrong with having an auspicious or perfect name. Trouble is, that same mentality easily plays into an aspect that results in some of the most annoying annoyances known to mankind.
Which part of ‘different’ didn’t you understand?
This never ceases to amaze me:—
A lot of Chinese people have this unfathomable notion that a Western name must articulate with their Chinese name, in meaning if not also in sound.
It really takes (me) an effort of will to explain and persuade an unnervingly large number of Chinese people to stop wasting so much time fishing around for one-to-one mapping between Western and Chinese names.
And stop pestering others for the same too, thankyouverymuch.
Unbelievable as it may sound, I’ve once been asked by a jackass (an English major of all things) for an English name that has the exact sound and meaning as his Chinese name.
“WTF” is a good name that has the same meaning across all cultures that I know of…
There’s no 1-to-1 mapping. Western and Asian naming practices are totally different.
End of discussion.
Another old saying:—
Man aspires to rise, and water flows downstream.
Mandarin: Rén wàng gāo-shèng, shuǐ wǎng dī liú
Cantonese: Yan mong go sing, shui wong dai lau
Annoyances like 1-to-1 mapping aside, the Chinese understands this more than most:— There is power in a name.
If you’ve got a ‘barbarian’ name like Conan, Connor, Asterix, Thorcyn, Werddryt, etc, then the next generation has to go one level up — a more ‘civilised’ name, so to speak.
Therefore, a “next level” kind of name is a ‘power name’ — one that is 殺食 (saat sik: literally ‘kill eat’) — a Chinese idiom meaning ‘has weight’ or ‘has cachet’ or just plain ‘firepower.’ In other words, ‘effective and effectual’ in plain English (or 夠號召力 for those who can read Chinese). Or just “my name, f@#k yeah.”
So I was explaining it like this:—
Having grown up in 13 different countries around the world, I can safely say from my own experience that the name Antonia (especially with a double-barrelled surname) often generate feelings in others along the lines of “Oh shit, she’s on her way! Can’t let her see this mess!” Compare (say) Valerie:— “Val’s popping over, like, yeah, whatever.”
Do you FEEL me on this, motherfather?
“I can get behind your name too, sunshine”
(a.k.a. use your loaf)
I’ve actually written at length about this before: see this post.
GQ magazine offers some commonsensical rules for naming a baby — in the worst baby-naming era in human history. (GQ’s words, not mine, but I concur all the same.)
Shame you don’t have celebrity parents to blame your weird name on.
Chinese tradition/superstition has it that the whole name mustn’t add up to 36 strokes. Unfortunately, it usually DOES add up to that — 12 being the average number of strokes for each character, and the Chinese name is typically three characters.
The average Chinese name clocks up to 32 strokes, however. *phew*
RECYCLE, BUT NOT FOR UNUSED CHOICES
If you came up with Connor Cruise for your kid but didn’t use it, that gets cancelled for your next kid. Go the extra mile and come up with something new while you’re doing the toilet thing before bed.
REGISTER FULL FORMS
Some people just don’t get it. It’s Thomas, not Tom. Richard, not Dick. Henry, not Harry. Some names like Alex is fine without going through Alexander, but not many.
SHOW CONTINUITY OF LINEAGE
For families with not much documented or oral history, show some continuity through the names:—
David Robert Jones (parent)
Christopher David Jones (son)
John Christopher Jones (grandson)
You get the idea.
REGISTERED BIRTH NAMES ARE FOREVER, BABY
FACT:— Know now that once you registered your kid’s name with the births, deaths and marriages registry, that record stays unchanged forever. It can’t be changed. It’s public policy. It’s the official record of that child’s birth.
You may change your name afterwards to anything you like by deed poll. You just can’t change the official birth record and the name at birth. It pays to get it right the first time.
Somebody once argued with me about the amendability of registered birth names — and lost a cool thousand bucks in the process. Your kid so it’s none of my business. Can’t say he was a good gambler either.
Hard luck they had, but they deserve a name too. Traditionally, just pick a single random name. Choose a birth-month name (see below) or something unmistakably biblical or archaic (or both). Helpful for administrative or genealogical searches.
TERRIBLY ENGLISH NAMES
Some names are so ‘English’ that even the culturally comatosed couldn’t mistake them for anything else.
THE AWL has a list of “68 Fantastic English Names Gathered While Watching the BBC Over the Years” — sound real enough for sure. I’ll just add some of mine:—
Now see the BBC America article “10 British Boys’ Names That Struggled to Cross the Pond” (or anywhere else, for that matter).
CRAP BRITSHIT NAMES
Can’t remember where or how I got this shite list, but it’s partly from books and the Internetto and partly from my own crap in the Rolodexes.
Opinions are not entirely mine, thankfully. Pink girls’ names and blue boys’ names.
BOY NAMES: ‘POWER’
The lists of “power names” below are just my family’s general experience. Your mileage may vary, as it should be.
Just for reference, my family has a strong tendency for names of Germanic roots, followed by Scottish, Gaelic or Celtic names. We’re not much into names of Hebrew origins or biblical flavour (Joseph or Rachel, for instance) — there have been exceptions, of course.
(Click images below for full size)
Personally, I’m not terribly fond of Scottish, Gaelic or Celtic names. Maybe it’s the English or London thing in me but those names (handsome though they are) just don’t seem to carry of well enough in the ‘power name’ bracket. That’s just me.
Personal favourites are Nigel, Guy, Jeremy, Claude, Douglas, Robert, Darius, Cyrus (“Cy—” “—yonara” in Con Air, 1997) and Niall.
Personal favourites are Cornelius, Averill, Swift and Mayhew.
GIRL NAMES: ‘PLEASANTNESS’
When it comes to girl names, my folks have found ‘pleasant’ often turns out to be the same as ‘power.’
Girls in my family have greater flexibility — name of any origin will do fine, as long as it’s nothing weird like Septembera or Alphabeta (“al-fabbit-a”) or mishearable like Thalia Isadora — “the liar is at the door!”
Nothing personal — it’s just business, girls.
(Click images below for full size)
Personal favourites are Harriet, Winifred, Antonia, Claudia, Griseldis, Geraldine, Robyn, Pippa and Severine. My granny was Winifred and great-granny Josephine.
SPECIAL OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS
LAVINIA, ANTONIA, CLAUDIA
Roman Empire names, Roman Empire state of mind.
Roman Empire state of treatment too if you don’t watch your step.
These three ladies are no-fuss, no-faffing-around-when-I’m-around types.
They’ve got book smarts — plus the street savvy without having to descend to the hoi-polloi level. Hear the name, and you’ll know you’ll always end up having to shape up or ship out in their presence.
Oh yeah, forgot — call these ladies by their short forms and you’ll get the short shrift. Or crucified. Roman Empire. Warned’ya.
For some reason, lots of people seem to associate equestrianism with this name.
And probably the type who’ll flog you till you rise from the dead for getting just a 99% pass.
Don’t let her pet form Lucy fool you.
HARRIET (nickname: Hazmat)
This is a super ‘English’ name — the English version of the French Henriette (from Henry).
Short forms are Etta, Ettie, Halle, Hatsy, Hattie, Hazza, Rikka and Drika (the last two don’t sound too English, I think). Harriet’s nickname Hazmat is actually a genuine traditional English short form.
The actress Halle Berry is a Harriet.
STANDARD FACTORY-SHIPPED NAMES
Some names are traditionally associated with a month — “standard factory-shipped names” as I call them.
In the English-speaking world, birth-month names tend to be MIDDLE names.
My chart gives those for the English-speaking world.
SPUDS AND BRICKS
Spuds and Bricks — studs and chicks!
(Now you know…)
My family’s gene pool of names below. *snorg*
(Click for full size)
Your name IS the name of the game. It’s not just another Tuesday for us.
Images: Spuds via home-farm.org | Bricks via ouroldislandhome.com | Family tree via Shutterstock | Hello I’m “Pretending to be Nice” via SmmurrsieButt at DeviantArt | Riot police by wonkette | Crossbow via edupics | Sparta Ramming Away GIF via c4c | “I’ll slit your throat” via apina | Horse girls via imgur | Monkey and girls via c4c | Aerial view of cookie-cutter homes via Wikipedia. All other images by the author.